Why Ukraine’s Stalemate Will Likely Last Another Year ?

Is this a stalemate in Ukraine? I’m not so sure. I read words like stalemate and frozen conflict and wonder if these words really and truly describe the situation in Ukraine?


By Ian Bremmer

November 16, 2023 6:00 AM EST

Ian Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME. He is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and GZERO Media, a company dedicated to providing intelligent and engaging coverage of international affairs.

Things are looking up for Vladimir Putin. Ukraine’s much-vaunted counteroffensive has made little (zero progress) progress on the ground, heightening fears in the West that U.S. and European taxpayers are bankrolling an increasingly costly stalemate.

Putin can also celebrate the fallout from Israel’s war with Hamas. The U.S. and Europe are mightily distracted by the carnage in Gaza, which is roiling their domestic politics. Western aid that might have gone to Ukraine is now sharing focus with support for Israel and humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians trapped in harm’s way. Making matters worse, Washington and European governments don’t see eye to eye on this battle as they do on Ukraine, and divisions among Western governments are adding to the stress. The war in Gaza also helps Russia argue that America is run by neocolonialist hypocrites who make righteous speeches about human rights in Ukraine while green-lighting Israel’s assault on Palestinians who can’t flee as Ukrainians have.

Quietly, Western leaders are warning Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky that time is not on his country’s side. Despite the fights in Washington over Ukraine funding, more U.S. aid is probably coming. President Biden should still be able to secure a decent fraction of the $60 billion in military support he has requested from Congress. But uncertainty about the future of U.S. support is taking hold.

Yet, Western efforts to push Zelensky to begin bargaining with Putin will are going nowhere for now. Ukraine’s president is in no position to offer up captured Ukrainian land that tens of thousands of his soldiers died to defend. (100’s of thousands) That’s especially true at a time when other voices are finding favor with the Ukrainian public—see recent public comments from Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top military commander—and as he faces growing pressure to drop his objections to holding a wartime election in 2024.

What could the West offer Zelensky in exchange for his willingness to begin haggling with Putin? On the economic side, the West could promise to finance full reconstruction of the country—including via the seizure of Russia’s frozen assets. The European Union could promise (eventual) membership. On the security side, NATO could offer full membership, with the protection guarantees that come with it. But members on both sides of the Atlantic will balk at moving large numbers of troops and weapons into Ukraine and at committing to war with Russia if missile strikes continue across the country

Putin has no interest (or necessity) in offering any credible concession that Zelensky believes he could afford to accept. It’s too easy for Russia’s president to call up more recruits in numbers Ukraine can’t match, even if only to throw them on the fire. He can also wait and see what happens to Western support over the next year and what American voters decide next November. Aware of all this, Zelensky has no incentive to offer anything he knows Putin will only see as a sign of weakness.

4 replies on “Why Ukraine’s Stalemate Will Likely Last Another Year ?”

Hi Penny:
Words like stalemate and frozen conflict only describe the bias of the western media like Time. For some time now Ukrainian solders have been simply cannon fodder in the failed attempt for Ukraine to regain territory. Entrenched Russian soldiers kill the poor Ukrainian soldiers sent at them. At the beginning of the special military operation it was said that the US would fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian. This has been becoming true. It is amazing to me that no one cares about the horrendous number of Ukrainian solders being killed or horribly wounded. In the world I live in, money is the only thing of value and human lives have no value in the attempt to make money.
In Russia, Putin is a pacifist. The military and the Russian population want the military to march west to the Polish border and end this thing. Putin, however, wants to live with the Ukrainian people after this is over and he does want to provoke NATO to enter the war even when a NATO war would not go well for NATO as NATO cannot compete with the current Russian military. What is NATO’s defence against hypersonic missiles? They will easily put NATO’s ships at the bottom of the sea.

Well said, Gary.
Note how the word ‘negotiate’ never appears in the article. Instead the author uses “bargaining and haggling”. Well they will not haggle a bargain out of Putin when he dictates the terms of surrender. Also the onus is all put on Zelensky to end the war, no mention of NATO or the US negotiating to end the war they started and financed.
When surrender terms are agreed upon their will be no chance of what’s left of the Ukraine entering NATO and moving missiles into the Russian defensive sphere. Putin’s war aims were clearly stated. (As opposed to ours).
A terrible video was posted today of female Ukrainian casualties in the trenches, their situation is critical all along the front, the Ukrainian army will crumble, the Russians have amassed a vast stockpile of missiles and infantry reserves, and this might not last too long into 2024.
I see a flicker of hope that the end is near.

There are five main points in military affairs.
If you can attack, you have to attack.
If you can’t attack, you have to defend.
If you are not able to defend yourself, you have to flee.
The remaining two points mean only surrender or death.
Sima Yi (Chinese strategist and politician [179-251])

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